September 5, 2018 / 2:20 PM / in 8 months

Colombia's Cano Limon pipeline bombed by rebels - military sources

BOGOTA, Sept 5 (Reuters) - A portion of Colombia’s Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline was destroyed in a bomb attack late on Tuesday by the ELN rebel group, causing an oil spillage, sources in the military and at state-run oil company Ecopetrol said.

The attack took place in Norte de Santander province near the Venezuelan border. Though pumping on the pipeline was already halted for maintenance work, the bombing caused some oil spillage and environmental damage, a source at Ecopetrol said.

The Ecopetrol source did not name the group responsible for the attack, but military sources blamed the National Liberation Army (ELN), which regularly bombs oil infrastructure.

The bombing of the 485-mile (780-km) pipeline, which can transport up to 210,000 barrels per day, has not affected production at the Cano Limon field, operated by Occidental Petroleum, or exports.

The pipeline was stopped for six months earlier this year because of repeated attacks and crude theft, before restarting on July 10. It has been attacked 63 times in 2018.

The ELN, considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, has about 1,500 combatants and opposes multinational companies, claiming they seize natural resources without benefiting Colombians.

The ELN and the administration of former President Juan Manuel Santos began peace talks in February 2017, but new President Ivan Duque has said he is evaluating whether to continue the negotiations. His decision is expected this week.

Duque has said the ELN must free 19 hostages before any dialogue can resume. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Susan Thomas)

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